While most people likely witnessed bullying behavior when they were in school, they likely don’t expect to encounter it in their jobs as adults. Unfortunately, workplace bullying is a real phenomenon, and it can have a deleterious impact on the ability of the victims to do their jobs as well as on their physical and mental wellbeing. Workplace bullying can take multiple forms, ranging from threats, verbal aggression, emotional harm, and physical violence. The victims of workplace bullying may feel that they have to accept the abuse because of the fear of being fired if they speak up. In some situations, workplace bullying may form the basis for filing a lawsuit. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler can review claims and offer honest assessments of whether people have valid claims as well as steps that they might take to stop the bullying.
When can workplace bullying form the grounds for a lawsuit?
Workplace bullying is not specifically prohibited under state or federal law. However, some types of workplace bullying may be covered by laws that prohibit harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.
For example, it is illegal under New Jersey and federal law for employers to take adverse employment actions based on a worker’s protected characteristic, including his or her sex, religion, race, age, pregnancy, national origin, genetic information, and disability status. Under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, employers are also prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, and marital status.
Federal law has some of the same protections. When workplace bullying is directed to a group of employees who share a protected characteristic or is based on a single worker’s protected characteristic, it may be illegal under state and federal anti-discrimination laws.
Some examples of workplace bullying that may violate state and federal laws and form the basis for a lawsuit might include the following:
- A supervisor demotes a worker or assigns menial tasks to the worker based on his or her race or sex;
- A coworker or supervisor repeatedly targets a worker for verbal and physical abuse because of his or her religion, national origin, or sexual orientation;
- A coworker or supervisor repeatedly subjects a worker to sexual comments or advances; or
- A supervisor makes demeaning comments about a worker’s pregnancy to try to get her to transfer or quit.
This is not an exhaustive list, and other types of workplace bullying may also be illegal if it is based on a protected characteristic.
Workplace bullying that is not prohibited
Some workplace bullying is not prohibited under the law. For example, it is not against the law for a worker to use excessive profanity at work or to criticize your work product repeatedly. You might have grounds for a lawsuit against an employee who spreads false information about you, but you probably will not be able to sue your employer.
Talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler
One of the best ways to determine whether you might have grounds to file a lawsuit against your employer for workplace bullying is to consult with an experienced employment law attorney. The lawyers at Swartz Swidler can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your potential claim and provide you with a fair and honest assessment. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.